PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 2: Manager Charlie Manuel #41 of the Philadelphia Phillies takes the ball from pitcher Cole Hamels #35 in the seventh inning against the Miami Marlins in a MLB baseball game on June 2, 2012 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Marlins defeated the Phillies 5-4. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
You hear that? That's the sound of the wind being taken out of the Phillies' sails this weekend, thanks to two straight losses to the Miami Marlins, which put a damper on their recent run of success in which they won seven of nine games heading into Saturday's matchup.
After Kyle Kendrick and the offense drowned the Fish on Friday night, the Phillies sent Cole Hamels – who has been their best pitcher this season – to the mound to try and take the second game of the series.
Things started off well enough, as the Phillies jumped out to an early 3-0 lead as Hamels cruised through the Marlins' lineup, but a pair of homers from Hanley Ramirez – and the worst start of Cole's season – was enough to derail the streaking Phillies, who were not able to overcome the deficit, despite having the tying run in scoring position with less than two outs in both the eight and ninth innings.
On Sunday, They never really had a chance. Carlos Zambrano kept the bats in check (and added a homer of his own) and Joe Blanton's struggles continued, as the Phillies barely put up a fight as they fell back to one game over .500.
And just like that, the Phillies find themselves, once again, struggling to score when they need to. You can excuse Sunday's game, because sometimes you just get beat, but they had every chance in the world to win on Saturday, but they squandered it thanks to a lack of timely hits, plus a combination of late-game management.
Of course, the brunt of the loss falls squarely on Hamels' shoulders, as he was unable to protect a 3-0 lead, but his offense didn't do him any favors. After jumping on Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco in the first few innings, they went cold and weren't able to muster anything until the eighth, when they trailed by two runs.
Thanks to a leadoff triple from Jimmy Rollins, the Phillies were in a great position to get back in the game, and after a sacrifice fly from Hunter Pence that scored Rollins (which also moved Juan Pierre over to third), it looked like a tie game was inevitable. But Carlos Ruiz, who has been the best hitter on the planet, was unable to get the run home with one out, which more or less ended the threat.
In the ninth inning, the Phillies went to work against beleaguered closer Heath Bell, but were similarly unable to score. Despite a leadoff single from Placido Polanco, the Phillies opted to have Freddy Galvis sacrifice him to second (thereby wasting a precious out), leaving the game in the hands of Brian Schneider and Jimmy Rollins, who both popped out, leaving Polanco stranded at second base.
After taking three of four form the St. Louis Cardinals and two of three from the New York Mets, the Phillies really put themselves in a position to win their third straight series to improve their stock in the division. But thanks to their clutch hitting nemesis, they were once again turned away.
They'll look to right the ship on Monday against the N.L. West leading Los Angeles Dodgers, a task which will not prove to be an easy one.